A new report from RealClearPolitics finds the Kennedy Center intends to furlough 60 percent of their full-time employees after already furloughing approximately 725 part-time staff members. Staff changes come after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fought tooth and nail to allocate $25 million in relief funding to the Kennedy Center in the “CARES Act” coronavirus bailout bill.
According to the law’s text, the funds provided by the CARES Act should be used to cover operating expenses required to ensure the continuity of the Kennedy Center and its affiliates, including for employee compensation and benefits, grants, contracts, payments for rent or utilities, fees for artists or performers, information technology, and other administrative expenses.
NEW: According to internal discussions and documents obtained by RCP, the Kennedy Center intends to furlough 60% of their full time staff.
Furloughs are expected on a rolling basis
This after already furloughing 725 part time staff and accepting $25 million in federal relief.
— Philip Melanchthon Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) March 31, 2020
Despite measures in the CARES Act to prevent unemployement, the performing arts center axed the National Symphony Orchestra from payroll beginning April 3. According to emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, nearly 100 musicians will no longer receive a paycheck despite the $25 million taxpayer bailout.
“Everyone should proceed as if their last paycheck will be April 3. We understand this will come [as a] shock to all of you, as it did to us,” the email reads.
On March 31, the Kennedy Center also laid off approximately 20 administrative staffers who worked with the National Symphony Orchestra.
The Kennedy Center recently completed a $250 million renovation and received $41 million in taxpayer dollars in 2019 alone. However, the performing arts hub is facing massive deficits during its temporary coronavirus closure. Its doors closed on March 12 and plans to reopen on May 10. Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said she would forego her $1.2 million salary during the coronavirus pandemic, but employees are still being cut left and right.
The language in the CARES Act allows the Kennedy Center to spend stimulus funds through September 2021, even though operations should start up again in early May 2020.
House Republicans introduced legislation aimed at revoking the Kennedy Center’s $25 million handout. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., introduced the bill and has strong support from House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
“Thanks Steve Scalise for supporting my bill that takes back the $25 million from DC’s Kennedy Center. This money should be spent fighting the virus or in taxpayers’ pockets,” Steil tweeted.
On Sean Hannity, Scalise blamed Pelosi for giving handouts to the Kennedy Center in the first place. Scalise called this one of Pelosi’s “pet projects.”
“Nancy Pelosi literally held the [CARES Act] up for days to get her pet projects, including the money for the Kennedy Center. Interesting she’d use the choice of words ‘fiddlers,’ because it was the fiddlers, the violin players, all the musicians at the Kennedy Center that got laid off right as the bill got signed,” Scalise said.
Thanks @SteveScalise for supporting my bill that takes back the $25 million from DC’s Kennedy Center. This money should be spent fighting the virus or in taxpayers’ pockets! WATCH on @seanhannity here: pic.twitter.com/HgmYGEdvE5
— Bryan Steil (@RepBryanSteil) March 31, 2020